Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bethlehem and the Nativity and Pilate’s Judgment Hall Day 7: November 9th, 2013

I awoke early after the first full night of sleep on the trip; downloaded my photos from yesterday before breakfast and by 8:00 am we were on the bus and headed back into Palestine territory to spend time in Bethlehem to visit the Holy Sites related to the birth of Jesus.  Going across the border is not a problem; returning is not one either for us but private cars are searched each time that they enter back into Israel. 

We arrive about 8:30 am at Shepard’s Field; an area known for centuries for the sheep and their keepers who live with them in the many caves that permeate the area.  They were the unclean and were not permitted to enter Jerusalem.   Because of ancient history that has come down through the ages; this is the area where the Shepherds’ would have been living when they saw the Star of David over the area when Jesus was born.  
We then visited the church of the Nativity and held Mass after our visit in one of their oldest chapels known as the Chapel of St. Helen.  Deacon Nick assisted Father Paw during the Mass.  After Mass we entered the main part of the church that is under restoration.  It was very dark in the church of the Nativity and there were many people waiting in line to enter the cave where Joseph and Mary spent the night when Jesus was born.  The church is actually an Orthodox Catholic Church and they have many icons and hanging lights in the sanctuary.  Our group was scheduled to go in just as a group of dignitaries arrived; a delegation from Canada we later learned.  We waited while they made their visit.  Then we each had a minute to view the cave and say a few prayers.  Thousands of people arrive every day to visit this sacred cave. After we finished our private Mass we entered the Catholic Church in the complex where each year on December 24th they hold the midnight mass to celebrate the birth of Christ.

By noon we were back on the bus and headed for a Bedouin style restaurant decorated like it was a tent.  It was reminiscent of our trip to Jordan several years ago where we went out into the desert to an actual Bedouin tent for tea!  Delicious lunch of lamb and chicken; they offered to let us smoke the pipe again but with the exception of a few men, we declined.  Once was enough!
A quick stop at the store we visited last night for some things that we wanted after sleeping on it overnight and then a visit to an ATM machine that gives American Dollars!  
Soon we were back in Jerusalem and headed for the church of Saint Anne and the Pool of Bethesda located inside the old city walls. 
We entered through the Lion Gate and walked about a mile on our journey to the church and back out again.  The site is very old and the church goes back 900 years to the time of the Crusaders.  It has very good acoustics and groups generally sing a religious song to hear the effect when they visit.  Yes, we sang a song!  Then we went down into the home of Mary’s Mother Anne that is under the church.  The place where the Virgin Mary was born.
Then back out to visit the Pool of Bethesda, after climbing down inside we finally found some water.  In the spring it came become up to eighteen feet deep during a very rainy season but this has been a dry one so the water level was very low.  A one point in history there was a church built over the pools and the remains of the foundations are still there.
Home by 5:30 pm we had a dinner scheduled for 6:30 pm.  I’ve spent the evening catching up on my blogs.  Hope you’ve enjoyed the stories of our journey.  Below is the link to the slideshow: 

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